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elegant and glaring, but the former is more strong and more folemn. It must be allow'd, that in one of these there are materials enough to make many of the other. It has much the greater variety, and much the nobler apartments; tho' we are often conducted to them by dark, odd, and uncouth Passages. Nor does the Whole fail to strike us with greater reverence, tho' many of the Parts are childish, ill-plac'd, and unequal to its grandeur.
T seems to be a kind of respect due to the memory of excellent men, especially of those whom their wit and learning have made famous, to deliver fome ac
count of themselves, as well as their works, to Pofterity. For this reason, how fond do we see some people of discovering any little personal story of the great men of Antiquity! their families, the common accidents of their lives, and even their shape, make, and features have been the subject of critical enquiries. How trifling foever this Curiosity may seem to be, it is certainly very natural; and we are hardly fatisfy'd with an account of any remarkable person, till we have heard him describ'd even to the very cloaths he wears, As for what relates to men of letters, the knowledge of an Author may sometimes conduce to the better understanding his book: And
tho' the Works of Mr. Shakespear may seem to many not to want a comment, yet I fancy fome little account of the man himself may not be thought improper to go along with them.
He was the son of Mr. John Shakespear, and was born at Stratford upon Avon, in Warwickshire, in April 1564. His family, as appears by the Register and publick Writings relating to that Town, were of good figure and fashion there, and are mention'd as gentlemen. His father, who was a considerable dealer in wool, had so large a family, ten children in all, that tho' he was his eldest son, he could give him no better education than his own employment. He had bred him, 'tis true, for some time at a Free-school, where 'tis probable he acquired what Latin he was master of: But the narrowness of his circumstances, and the want of his assistance at home, forc'd his father to withdraw him from thence, and unhappily prevented his further proficiency in that language. It is without controversy, that in his works we
scarce find any traces of any thing that looks like an imitation of the Ancients. The delicacy of his taste, and the natural bent of his own great Genius, (equal, if not fuperior to some of the best of theirs) would certainly have led him to read and study 'em with so much pleasure, that some of their fine images would naturally have insinuated themselves into, and been mix'd with his own writings ; so that his not copying at least something from them, may be an argument of his never having read 'em. Whether his ignorance of the Ancients were a difadvantage to him or no, may admit of a dispute : For tho' the knowledge of 'em might, have made him more correct, yet it is not improbable but that the regularity and deference for them, which would have attended that correctness, might have restrain’d some of that fire, impetuosity, and even beautiful extravagance which we admire in Shakespear :
And I believe we are better pleas'd with those thoughts, altogether new and uncommon, which his own imagination supply'd him so abundantly with, than if he had given us the most beautiful passages out of the Greek and Latin poets, and that in the most agreeable manner that it was possible for a master of the
Englissa language to deliver 'em.
Upon his leaving school, he seems to have given entirely into that way of living which his father propos’d to him ; and in order to settle in the world after a family manner, he thought fit to marry while he was yet very young. His wife was the Daughter of one Hathaway, said to have been a substantial yeoman in the neighbourhood of Stratford. In this kind of fertlement he continu'd for some time, 'till an extravagance that he was guilty of forc'd him both out of his country and that way of living which he had taken up; and tho' it seem'd at first to be a blemish upon his good manners, and a misfortune to him, yet it afterwards háppily prov'd the occasion of exerting one of the greatest Genius's that ever was known in dramatick Poetry. He had, by a misfortune common enough
fellows, fallen into ill company; and amongst them, some that made a frequent practice of Deerstealing, engag'd him with them more than once in robbing a Park that belong'd to Sir Thomas Lucy of Cherlecot, near Stratford. For this he was prosecuted by that gentleman, as he thought, somewhat too feverely ; and in order to revenge that ill usage, he made a ballad upon him. And tho this, probably the first essay of his Poetry, be loft, yet it is said to have been so very bitter, that it redoubled the Profecution against him to that degree, that he was oblig'd to leave his business and family in Warwickshire, for some time, and shelter himself in London.
It is at this time, and upon this accident, that he is said to have made his first acquaintance in the Playe*
the custom .
houfe. He was receiv'd into the company then in being, at first in a very mean rank ; but his admirable wit, and the 'natural turn of it to the stage, foon diftinguish'd him, if not as an extraordinary Actor, yet as an excellent Writer. His name is printed, as other Players, before some old Plays, but without any particular account of what fort of parts he us'd to play, and tho' I have enquir’d, I could never meet with any further account of him this way, than that the top of his Performance was the ghost in his own Hamlet. I should have been much more pleas'd, to have learn'd from some certain authority, which was the first Play he wrote (a); it would be without doubt a pleasure to any man, curious in things of this kind, to fee and know what was the first essay of a fancy like Shakespear's. Perhaps we are not to look for his beginnings, like those of other authors, among their least perfect writings; art had so little, and nature fo large a share in what he did, that, for ought I know, the performances of his youth, as they were the most vigorous, and had the moft fire and strength of imagination in 'em, were the best. I would not be thought by this to mean, that his fancy was so loose and extravagant, as to be independent on the rule and government of judgment ; but that what he thought, was commonly fo great, fo justly and rightly conceiv'd in it felf, that it wanted little or no correction, and was immediately approv'd by an impartial judgment at the first sight. But tho' the order of time in which the several pieces were written be generally uncertain, yet there are passages in some few of them which seem to fix their dates. So the Chorus at the
(ay. The highest date of any I can get find, is Romeo and Juliet in 1597, when the Ausborwas 33 years old and Richard the 2d, and 38, in the next year, viz. the 345b of bis age.